Every once in a while, I choose or wish for a book on NetGalley solely due to the description and GREEN was one of those books.
12 year old David Greenfeld, aka Green, is nearly the only white boy in Martin Luther King Middle School in the early 90's. As such, he is subject to harassment, and not only because of his color. He's Jewish, even though his family doesn't practice, he doesn't have the right clothes or shoes, and he has few friends.
Marlon, a black teen that lives nearby, comes to Dave's aid when he's bullied and they become fast friends. Bonding over Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics, (the curse of Coke!), and playing basketball, (or nasketball), the two are nearly inseparable.
Mar and Dave's friendship occurs during a tough time in Boston and in our country. Amidst the tumultuous race riots and the rise, (and fall) of Boston Celtic Reggie Lewis, (the importance of sports teams in Boston cannot be underestimated), these boys face racist bullies and the threat of bodily violence every day. Coming of age is never easy, no matter the era in which it takes place. Dave is trying hard to better himself, find his inner self, (Is it Christian? Is it Jewish?) and survive the day to day without the right clothes or shoes. Will his relationship with Marlon survive too? You'll have to read this to find out!
While I enjoyed GREEN, I had some problems with it. I know the language had to be of the time and setting for the tale to ring true, but I'm not quite sure that it did. To be honest, at times it seems that the author was trying too hard to make the slang real. Every single time clothes were described it was "so and so rocked this or that", every time they went somewhere they "rolled." It irritated me a little but your mileage may vary.
Another problem I had with the story is the lack of information about some of the characters and their backgrounds. Green's brother Benno, for instance, hadn't spoken to anyone in over a year and had other issues as well. I would have liked to have known more about that. Also, Green's Jewish grandfather, (Cramps instead of Gramps, because he was grouchy), had a lot of background that was only briefly glimpsed in this tale. I would have liked to have known more details about that and about the effects they had on Dave's father.
Lastly, as the mother of a young man I know that masturbation is a big part of a boy's coming of age. I just don't need to know the details. I know it happens, I know the hormones are raging, I get it. I just want to give the head's up to others that this occurs. A lot! (This was the era of Baywatch, after all.)
GREEN was a good coming of age story and I wonder how much of it was autobiographical because most of it did ring true. (As much as it could to a middle age white woman, anyway.) Bullying, religion, racism, having the right clothes and shoes-these are all things that are still problems to this day. It's how we deal with these issues that defines us. David Greenfeld was not the perfect boy and certainly not the perfect friend, but I couldn't help but root for him anyway. I think you will too.
*Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*
Winters continues her run of excellent historical fiction with slight paranormal/supernatural elements. Great historical detail with care taken to avoid anachronisms, and a relatable, strong heroine. The Oregon settings are also interesting, as most Prohibition-era stories seem to take place in New York, Chicago, or San Francisco. In this edition, an era of social upheaval and the power of small men is explored as the biracial main character and a homosexual boy in her town both experience the effects of hate. The local KKK are seen as a fairly friendly, inactive group. Three guesses what's really going on...
I've appreciated how Winters' books so far don't overly rely on central romances, so I was kind of disappointed how much emphasis this book put on romantic relationships being so central to identity, acceptance and future success. But on the other hand, she doesn't necessarily pursue that within the main plot, which is in line with her other stories so far. Some attention given to exploring the motivations of people on different sides of an issue (nice to have the parents' story), but less so than other books so far. There's only so much you can cover within a tightly-paced book and the main POV, but it might have been too much to cover (racism + sexual identities with two different representative characters).
CW: One scene of attempted rape; discussion of rape, assault and atrocities done to Native Americans; and lots and lots of racists dirtbags. This is the frontier, y'all, and the author doesn't shy away from how icky a lot of these people were.
This was unexpected, and in this case that's a good thing. You do need to check your disbelief at the door on this one, at least for the climax. It was a Monty Python case of horrors, that's for sure.
I'm surprised no one yelled, "Why won't you DIE?!" at any point. ;-)
The emphasis is on horror because right away you know things just aren't quite right, and by the end you've got a Most Dangerous Game situation that'll keep you flipping the pages.
What I really liked about this is that it wasn't your typical M/M novel. I would even go so far as to say this isn't a romance, though there is a love story of sorts and an HFN. But this didn't follow the standard formula that has, let's be honest, become somewhat stale. And after The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, it was nice getting an historical where the characters sound like they're in an historical. It still could've used a bit more detail than what we got, but again, still much better than Gentleman's.
John's struggle to learn to speak up and act on his own behalf and those he cares about was a nice journey to watch, even though it was painful at times. He starts off as a man who just runs from everything and has to figure out through many trials what's worth standing up for. He makes a lot of bad decisions and indecisions along the way but I was never frustrated with him. It was obvious why he acted the way he did, not least because he was trying to save his own hide if people found out he's a sodomite.
Gwennie, Thomas and Palmer are all great supporting characters, and even Samantha gets a point or two in her favor. The ending was a bit abrupt and the epilogue doesn't really wrap up the loose ends. Since the next book is centered around another main character, I'm not sure if we'll see these characters again or not. Hopefully we do because there is certainly more to see with these guys.
For this being self-published, it was surprisingly light on typos. There were a few more near the end than throughout the rest of the book, but it's still much cleaner than most self-published books out there. The story is in first-person, if that's something that concerns you, but John has an easy and approachable POV, so the writing flows rather well.
I had no idea what to expect from this and I was pleasantly surprised. Two pioneer women, one running from her husband and the other trapped in an abusive marriage, are trying to make it work on the prairie. This is set at some point in the 1800s, pre-Civil War as there's still slavery, and the characters have the attitudes of white settlers that you'd expect to encounter in those times, which is not always favorable to native peoples or other people of color. This is not revisionist, PC-friendly history, so be aware of that if that'll make you uncomfortable reading this.
Life on the prairie was dire in those days and this doesn't soft glove the details. Laura's husband is a massive douchebag and treats his wife and children like the property they were considered to be. Cecilia tries her best under unfavorable circumstances and while she doesn't back down from the challenges in front of her, she's not always brave at the crucial moments and makes mistakes that are believable for someone new to prairie life and farming in the Wild West.
Given the times and that female sexuality was completely ignored in those days (unless you were prostitute), I had no problems believing that these two women wouldn't have had the opportunities or means to question their sexuality. I don't see this as gay-for-you at all, and the way they come together over their shared struggles and loneliness made it believable. (There's no sex, for those who care; their relationship is quite chaste here.)
The details and research that went into this are amazing, and the characters are all starkly drawn and vivid. The dual POVs are a nice way to see what each MC is experiencing, and for the first half of the book, you get two or three chapters in a row with Laura, then switch to Cecelia for the same number of chapters. When the second half of the book comes and their POVs switch off every chapter it becomes clear that there isn't enough of a distinction in their voices to remember who has the POV in each chapter.
There are some typos in the first half, but they get much more numerous in the second half. Punctuation is the biggest culprit, but there are also missing words and misused words ("thought" instead of "though" for instance). This book could really use the benefit of a good editor. Still, the writing and prose is strong enough that I was mostly able to overlook this, but I'm knocking off half a star for the poor editing.